Sales of existing homes fell 11.4 percent in June compared to a year ago, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.75 million homes, the National Association of Realtors reported today.

The last time home sales dipped below that pace was November, 2002, when the rate was 5.73 million homes per year. In 2005, at the height of the housing boom, sales of existing homes hit 7.08 million.

The drop in June sales from last year was even more drastic in the West (19.1 percent) but fell less sharply in the Northeast (7.3 percent) and Midwest (8.1 percent). The decline in sales in Southern states from June 2006 to June 2007 matched the national average, 11.4 percent.

The only upsides in the latest numbers were a decline in housing inventory and a “modest gain” in home prices, said NAR Senior Economist Lawrence Yun in a statement.

Total housing inventory fell 4.2 percent at the end of June, to 4.2 million existing homes available for sale. At $230,100, the median sales price of existing homes in June was up .3 percent from a year ago. And median sales price has been making steady gains every month since hitting a low of $210,900 in January.

“Although we’ve seen seasonal month-to-month price increases over the past four months, this is the first time in 11 months that the median home price is higher than the year-ago price,” Yun said.

But even those numbers aren’t entirely good news. At the current pace of sales, there’s an 8.8-month supply of homes for sale — the same as a downwardly revised 8.8-month supply in May.

And the slight gain in median sales price in the last 12 months was driven by a 1.8 percent increase the Northeast, to $294,400. Median sales prices actually fell over the last 12 months in the Midwest (-1.5 percent, to $171,700), South (-.7 percent, to $190,800) and West (-.4 percent, to $340,000).

NAR President Pat Combs said the numbers illustrate that local market conditions can vary widely.

“Consumers should avoid making decisions based on what they hear about the national market because all real estate is local,” Combs said.

NAR also revised downward its previous estimate of the annual rate of existing home sales in May, from 5.99 million to 5.98 million. Using the new numbers, sales of existing homes – including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops – fell 3.8 percent from May to June. 

Existing condominium and co-op sales dropped 6.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 740,000 units in June from 790,000 in May, and 6.6 percent lower than the 792,000-unit pace of a year ago. The median existing condo price was $228,900 in June, up 2.6 percent from June 2006.

“Mortgage interest rates have risen recently, and tightening lending standards are continuing to hamper sales, but fewer risky loans will put the market on a healthier path,” Yun said. “Although general buying conditions remain favorable for long-term home buyers, it appears some buyers are looking for more signs of stability before they have enough confidence to make an offer.”

The national average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 6.66 percent in June, up from 6.26 percent in May but slightly lower than the 6.68 percent rate in June 2006, according to Freddie Mac.

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